THE cycle of violence in Balochistan continues unabated. This time it was the insurgents, killing 18 Punjabis in Turbat who were en route to Iran and then presumably onwards to being smuggled into Europe. Suspicion has fallen on Dr Allah Nazar and the Baloch Liberation Front, known to be active in the area. The only, though grim, difference in the latest attack by the Baloch separatists is the number of people killed in the incident. Attacks on Punjabis trying to make their way to Europe illegally have occurred before, particularly in the Mand area closer to the border with Iran. In fact, the human smugglers operating through Balochistan are believed to have changed their routes after clients trying to escape to a better future baulked at the risks along the original smuggling path. But the BLF and Allah Nazar appear to have caught up with them, instilling more fear in Punjabis daring to cross through remote Baloch-dominated territories.
Whether a tactic born of hatred or desperation, the killing of ‘outsiders’ in Baloch areas only ends up diminishing support for the Baloch cause. The state has engaged in its own violence against the Baloch — military operations, missing persons, kill-and-dump operations — and that is certainly a big factor in the violence that the Baloch separatists engage in. But it is a self-defeating tactic. Lose the sympathy and support of reasonable and right-thinking people across Pakistan and the Baloch will be more than ever at the mercy of a security establishment that views them with suspicion at the best of times. The solution is, of course, well known by now: the governments, both provincial and federal, must push for an end to state violence while at the same time meaningfully reaching out to the disaffected Baloch who have an ingrained suspicion of how the bigger provinces treat the geographically vast but sparsely populated province. Allah Nazar’s armed separatists are still not believed to number more than a few hundred. But seven years into the latest Balochistan insurgency more Baloch may be tempted to join him and others of his ilk if they don’t see any change in the state’s approach.